Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Prompt: Pizza Face, part 2

Note: I hope you'll enjoy this continuation of Caroline’s high school misadventures, begun in “Pizza Face”.

Adam was our class star quarterback, and all around nice guy. I sometimes wondered how he ever made it through the halls, with everyone wanting to talk to him. He had such a way of making you feel like he had nothing better to do than say hello to you. Me, that is. Whenever he passed me, he’d look right in my eyes and say, “Hello, Caroline. Hope you’re doing okay today.” How did he even know my name? We didn’t have any classes together freshman year. I sat behind him in sophomore Spanish, so I got treated to that smile every day in 4th period.

Now it was almost the end of our junior year. I still wore the mask. No one knew why. The scars covered half of my nose, my lips, cheeks, and chin. I couldn’t feel sensation, just pressure. The first surgery was also the last. My skin refused the graft and the doctors said we’d have to wait for some new therapy technologies that were coming down the line. Years.

I never showed my face to anyone. Not even Stephanie. She’d been my friend since the first week of freshman year. We were outcasts together, and I never cared there wasn’t anyone else at our table. We hung out at the mall and did homework together and had sleepovers, and I never once took off my mask in front of her.

The Jim Hudgens effect never wore off—noone ever bothered me or teased me about the mask. The only concession anyone ever made was Adam. He started calling me “Doc”, partway through sophomore Spanish, but with such a twinkle in his eye, I never thought he meant it in a mean way. And since it was Adam, no one else said it in a mean way, either. Now half the school called me Doc, and I answered out of habit.

I guess the apple was too much for John Bashton, though. He started hassling me, bumping me hard in the halls, that kind of thing. I hadn’t realized what a protective bubble the Hudgens effect was until it evaporated. Weinberg and his other friends picked up the slack, and soon I could hardly make it down a hallway with my books in hand. I just ducked my head and tried to ignore it, tried not to give them any more fodder, any more ammunition. I figured it was just a few more weeks till summer, and surely by next year, please God, they would have moved on to more exciting targets.

Until Stephanie and I were back in the cafeteria line, and Bashton’s voice rang out. “Throw me an apple, huh, Doc?” There was a chorus of laughter. Ugly laughter.

I froze. I should have played it cool. I should have picked up a damn apple and tossed it to him nice and easy. Except…

Bashton came at me hard and fast, pushed straight into my back, slamming me against the tray line, smearing my food onto my favorite green Henley. I grabbed onto the bars and pushed back against him, hard, to get some room. I turned around, and before I could do anything, he ripped off my mask. And stared. Backed away. “Damn, Doc--”

I wanted to crawl in a hole and pull it in after me. Surprisingly, that thought stiffened my spine. I stood up straight and thrust my face towards Bashton. He backed up a step. I’d have to process feeling like a monster later.

“What’s the matter, John? Gotta problem with my pizza face?”

Some of his tablemates snickered. He reddened. Before he could say another word, Adam’s hand was on his shoulder once again. He stepped in front of Bashton, plucking my mask out of Bashton’s fingers. I’ll never forget the intense gleam in his green eyes as Adam shouldered Bashton out of the way and looked down at me. All of me. My uncovered face. I desperately wanted to turn away, run away, be anywhere but there. But I couldn’t move.

Adam put his finger under my chin. I could feel the pressure, gentle but firm, lifting my face up. He didn’t say anything. He leaned down and kissed my lips. I wished I could feel his skin, his lips, more than just the pressure against mine. My first kiss, in front of the whole school cafeteria. Suddenly I didn’t want to be anywhere but right here.

Adam lifted his head and smiled at me. “So, Doc, will you be my date to the prom?”

Stephanie whooped. Cheers and catcalls erupted around us. Adam slid his arm under mine put his hand on the small of my back. I lifted my hand to cover my face. He took it in his free hand and leaned close to whisper in my ear. “Let’s get out of here. We’ve given them enough of a show for one day, don’t you think?”

Dogs in house:

January word count:

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